Today, ISIS is one of the most powerful Islamist extremist groups around the world. ISIS is a rival to al Qaida and rose to prominence as much due to its savvy use of social media as by its actual operations on the ground. Apparently, ISIS claims to hack U.S Central Command’s Twitter and YouTube accounts on January 12. One of nine unified commands in the U.S. military, CENTCOM’s has an area of responsibility in the central area of the world consisting of 20 countries, including Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Yemen.
Many tweets were exhibited professing that U.S Central Commands social accounts were hacked and then a U.S official confirmed the hack. The hackers used the Twitter feed to disperse official US military documents, which they portrayed as stolen classified documents, although in fact many of the documents are public and come from sources other than the US military.
Among the other documents posted by the group are “war scenarios” that the U.S. military keeps for the possibilities of conflicts with North Korea and China. The scenarios were uploaded in Power Point format. In one of the Pentagon documents, it’s declared that Al Qaeda operatives have bought yellow cake uranium in Africa.
The accounts were hacked by a group named ‘CyberCaliphate’. This tweet posted do not seem to be that significant as they were notable like the previous social media campaigns which were highly professional with pre-planned hash tag tie-ins, catchy screen grabs, and distribution across language barriers.
“American Soldier, We are coming. Watch your back, We won’t stop!” one tweet read, “We know everything about you, your wives and children.”
“ISIS is already here,” read another, ““You’ll see no mercy infidels. ISIS is already here, we are in your PCs, in each military base. With Allah’s permission we are in CENTCOM now. We won’t stop! We know everything about you, your wives and children. U.S. soldiers! We’re watching you!”
Twitter quickly shut down the account and removed the offending tweets, which continue to circulate via social media and various news articles. YouTube also suspended Central Command’s account, after the hackers posted two videos, entitled Flames of War ISIS Video and O Soldiers of Truth Go Forth.
The Twitter messages indirectly referred that ISIS had infiltrated deeper into the Central Command’s networks, and included images depicting what appeared to be of spreadsheets listing names and addresses of US Army members. The affected accounts were brought back online Monday night. The only positive effect of this incident for CENTCOM was that its number of followers from about 109,000 at the time of the attack to about 122,000 as of Tuesday at 12:50 p.m.
Just as social media plays a role in shaping real wars, politics, and business today, so does a hack like this signify more than bluster. This hack was highly embarrassing for US Central Command, all the more so for taking place at the very moment the President was speaking on the importance of cyber security.